Environmental ethics and the use of fixed anchors in wilderness areas
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Environmental Ethics and the Use of Fixed Anchors in Wilderness Areas. Agata Czerminska. Fixed Anchors. Rock Climbing Nylon slings, Metal bolts and pitons Pounded or drilled into cliff. The Bolting War. Can climbers legally place anchor bolts in federally designated wilderness areas?.

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Environmental ethics and the use of fixed anchors in wilderness areas

Environmental Ethics and the Use of Fixed Anchors in Wilderness Areas

Agata Czerminska


Fixed anchors
Fixed Anchors Wilderness Areas

  • Rock Climbing

  • Nylon slings, Metal bolts and pitons

  • Pounded or drilled into cliff


The bolting war

The Bolting War Wilderness Areas

Can climbers legally place anchor bolts in federally designated wilderness areas?


The battle erupts
The Battle Erupts Wilderness Areas

  • 1997: Anchors banned in Sawtooth Wilderness Area in Idaho

  • June 1998: Ban extended to include all wilderness areas

  • Fierce opposition from climbing groups

  • August 1998: Ban repealed


Negotiated rulemaking
Negotiated Rulemaking Wilderness Areas

  • Fixed Anchors in Wilderness Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee met on four separate occasions through the summer of 2000

  • Committee comprised of 21 representatives from organizations such as Wilderness Watch (anti-bolt) and the Access Fund (very pro-bolt)


Interpreting the wilderness act
Interpreting the Wilderness Act Wilderness Areas

Access Fund:

  • Fixed anchor ban contradicts the Wilderness Act’s provision to provide for primitive and unconfined types of recreation

  • Climbing is a legitimate use of public lands and permanent fixed anchors must sometimes be used to ensure climbing safety


Interpreting the wilderness act1
Interpreting the Wilderness Act Wilderness Areas

Wilderness Watch:

  • Fixed anchors are permanent installations as defined by the Wilderness Act and therefore violate the act

  • Bolts would open the hills to mountain bikes, ATVs, and snowmobiles


After a decade of war in the hills environmentalists and rock rats draft a treaty

“After a decade of war in the hills, environmentalists and rock rats draft a treaty”

But do they?


Neg reg results
Neg-Reg Results rock rats draft a treaty”

  • No consensus was reached


Ethical analysis
Ethical Analysis rock rats draft a treaty”

  • Approach in the meetings:

    Deontological – contending parties discussed their different interpretations of the Wilderness Act


Key factors missing in debates
Key Factors Missing in Debates rock rats draft a treaty”

  • The impacts of anchors on wildlife and biodiversity

  • Public opinion

  • The role rock climbing plays in local economies, which are tied to recreational use of public lands


Policy recommendations
Policy Recommendations rock rats draft a treaty”

  • Comprehensive study on the effects of climbing on cliff habitats

  • Site specific regulations

  • In some situations: permits limiting number of climbers


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